If we do in fact get a football season this year, on-field expectations are looking to be sky-high for the 2020 brand of the Iowa Hawkeyes.
As of this writing, seven Iowa football players have been named to preseason watch lists for position group awards. They are:
- Sam LaPorta, the John Mackey Award
- Ihmir Smith-Marsette, the Biletnikoff Award
- Mekhi Sargent and Tyler Goodson, the Doak Walker Award
- Chauncey Golston, the Bronko Nagurski Trophy
- Alaric Jackson and Coy Cronk, the Outland Trophy No love for Linderbaum?
Given to the nation’s top tight end, the John Mackey Award has been bestowed upon two previous Hawkeye Greats: TJ Hockenson won the award in 2018, while Dallas Clark took it home 16 years prior. Noah Fant, Allen Reisner and Tony Moeaki were all finalists for the award.
LaPorta is one of just three sophomores on the list, joining Oklahoma’s Austin Strogner and Texas A&M’s Jaylen Wydermyer. With just 15 catches for 188 yards to go on from his debut season, the folks at Mackey Inc. are putting a lot of stock in Iowa’s history of carving great tight ends from oak.
No Iowa player has won, or even been a finalist for the Biletnikoff award. The last Hawkeye to be named to its preseason watch list was Marvin McNutt leading up to the 2011 season. Coming off a year he nabbed 44 balls for 722 yards and 5 touchdowns, ISM would need to more than double his production to match the numbers of last year’s winner, LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase.
Thunder and lightning has been brought to the Doak Walker Award, as Iowa’s two lead backs each make the cut to the preseason list. Shonn Greene won the hardware in 2008, while Albert Young was a finalist in 2005. The funny thing about putting two running backs from the school on the list probably guarantees neither will win it since two guys can’t carry the ball at the same time, y’know?
And while I expect (hope) Goodson receives the lions share of touches this season, there’s still plenty of room for Mekhi Sargent (and Ivory Kelly-Martin) to make themselves useful.
Golston has a steep hill to climb after playing in AJ Epenesa’s shadow the past couple years, but the most seasoned defensive end on this Iowa team sounds to be that unit’s leader, if nothing else. Typically the Nagurski goes to a linebacker, but defensive ends took the doorstop home three of the past four years. If Golston can turn into Chase Young, Bradley Chubb or Jonathan Allen, we’re going to have a heck of a year.
Josey Jewell and Pat Angerer were each finalists for the Nagurski.
The Outland is Iowa’s crown jewel in its trophy case, as four Hawkeyes have their names on this one. Alaric Jackson probably has the physical tools to take it home, and if Cronk can have that type of year, then we’d probably call his transfer the only win of this offseason.
The Outland Trophy is said to be given to the nation’s best interior lineman, but it’s really just an award for any non-defensive end lineman. Going back the past 10 years, the winners have played:
A center hasn’t won the award since Minnesota’s Greg Eslinger in 2005. So it’s not surprising to have Tyler Linderbaum’s name omitted from the list; only 15 centers are on the 85-name page anyway. Cal Jones, Alex Karras, Robert Gallery, and Brandon Scherff are Iowa’s recipients of this bad boy.
In addition to the preseason award watchlists, media outlets are starting to handout some premature laurels as well. Phil Steele, a guy with a keyboard, named Alaric Jackson, Tyler Linderbaum, Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Keith Duncan to preseason all-American honors.
Duncan, a consensus first-team all-American in 2019, was the only Hawkeye to make the AA first-team list. ISM, Jackson and Linderbaum were named to the third team. ISM made the grade as a return specialist, not as a receiver.
Duncan and Jackson were named first-teamers on Steele’s Big Ten preseason list. ISM and Nico Ragaini made first team as return men, which tells me Steele has never watched Ragaini attempt to field a punt before.
Linderbaum and defensive end Chauncey Golston earned second team conference honors from Steele, while Matt Hankins and Tyler Goodson got the third team nod.